Nothing Screams DOUBT Like a Blank Page

Every time I start a new writing project I’m convinced that I’ve completely forgotten how. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve faced a blank screen, part of me is convinced that THIS TIME will be the time I totally blow it. That everything before now is a FLUKE. And I will never, ever remember how to write a book again.
During this panic stage, I’m unusually susceptible to outside influences. This is when I’m convinced I should try things like Journaling From The Characters’ Perspective, Making Story Collages, and worst of all: OUTLINING.
I’m totally not judging these activities. I think they’re fabulous and super-useful for people whose names aren’t Tiffany Schmidt.
But despite knowing I’m the pajama-pantsiest of pantsers, I sat down yesterday morning and dutifully typed up Chapter 1 – then bullet pointed the things I wanted to happen in it.
I made it to Chapter 2 before I started squirming in my seat. By Chapter 3 I was checking Twitter and Facebook and pacing the kitchen. Chapter ? (yeah, I stopped numbering after 4) had me in full-body twitch mode, digging through the cabinets to try and discover where St.Matt had hidden the leftover jelly beans.
Luckily, by the time I got to Chapter ???? – Unknown Plan is Executed with Stuff & Scariness, I gave up. I woke up. (and part of me wanted to THROW UP – I really think I’m allergic to planning).
Then I did what I should have done all along – the thing that’s served me well on every other book…
I started writing the kissing scenes and dialogue first.
Sometimes you just have to know your writing style. And more importantly, BELIEVE in your process. It may not work for anyone else, but if it works for you, cling to it like a baby koala bear.
What’s yours?

The Lucky 7 Game!

When I’m mad at my dear, dear friend Scott Tracey, I call him Scottopher. It has more heft as a lecture name, don’t you think? “Scottopher Tracey, get down here this minute! And no dessert for you!
Well, Scottopher is getting All The Looks this morning & I’m not mailing him any of the cinnamon buns I made this week. What was he thinking tagging me in a writer chain letter? He knows how I feel about luck.*
My debut novel, Send Me a Sign, is ABOUT superstition— if I break the chain, that’s probably like spitting on a black cat or playing paintball in a funhouse mirror room.
So here are the rules (copied straight from Scott’s post)
Open your most recent novel or work-in-progress.

Turn to page 7 or page 77.

Count 7 lines down.

Copy (or read aloud in a vlog post) the next 7 sentences…in their entirety.
No cheating or editing!!!

Then tag 7 more authors!
And here is my snippet — it’s an email my MC (Della) receives early in the book. And it’s exactly seven sentences.
Della. I’m sorry. So sorry. I never meant for this to get out. I know I promised I’d delete it. I’m so sorry. So sorry.
This is from my current contemp WIP. Codename: Full Nuder**
Oh. And my seven people:
*Scottopher, I’m not really mad. In case you were worried, which you weren’t because my anger is about as scary as a rage-filled cupcake.
** Yes, this does make me gigglefit EVERY time.

*** Remember that book I was raving about in my last post, The Archived? She’s sharing from THAT!

A Date! A Date!

No, not with St.Matt – though we’ll be going out tonight to celebrate.

This is a date YEARS in the making. Years and so many pages and hours and words.

It’s my RELEASE DATE.

READY? (and, by ready, I mean: do you have your calendar out and pen uncapped? Or, more likely, do you have your calendar app open and your thumbs poised to type?).


Sounds like a pretty good date, doesn’t it?

*Things that make it even better? I get to share a release date with one of best friends in the world – Emily Hainsworth.

** Info on release parties and such will be forthcoming, but, seriously we’ve got some time. Even uber-planners like me don’t have all the details hammered out 37 weeks early.

***If you don’t want to miss any updates, make sure you *Like* my Facebook page 


****Shamrock border from: http://imagesbyheatherm.wordpress.com/tag/shamrock/

Focus!

I am writing.

My mother-in-law is watching the twins and I am writing.

I’m writing out of my house. Out of my pajamas. And without one eye on the baby monitor.

I know this is a little bit a so what? How is that a big deal? Except it is for me. It’s the first time I’ve done this in the fourteen months they’ve been mine.

Recently I commented on a handful of writer friends’ New Years blog posts about my goal for the year: Focus, I said.

Which inspires a little bit of a *gigglefit* because Focus and I have never been friends. Just ask my parents or twelve years of teachers. Or the legions of Distraction Fairies who are always willing to pluck my attention away from the task at hand and lead me on a wild goose hunt—let’s make cookies, organize the spice rack, is the mail here?, I should write a letter to my great aunt, did I finish Christmas thank you notes, oh! I meant to put the boys’ photos in a new photo book. Let’s Google ideas for formats. Let’s Google character names. Let’s open the WIP. Is there any coffee left?

What was I saying again?

Oh, yes, Focus!

I’ve long since accepted that I’m a Distraction Fairy magnet and I’m never going to rewire my brain to think in a linear fashion. But, what I can do is Focus on a task while doing it. While reading books with The Schmidtlets, I’m not going to worry about laundry or my word count. While spending time with Saint Matt, I’m not going to obsess about the length of our to-do list. When sitting at my computer during precious naptime, I will stay off the Interwebs and make the most of that time with my WIP.  While on the phone with friends, I’m going to be less multi-tasky. The toys can stay on the floor for another few minutes and I can give all my energy over to listening. 

And now, while sitting in this coffee shop, I will appreciate the baby-free writing time, stop calling to check-in every few minutes, and FOCUS on the words on the page in front of me.

Feeling Apocalyptic

I was lucky enough to spend the moment 2011 gave way to 2012 at a wedding surrounded by friends and in formal wear. I’d almost, almost made it to 12 o’clock in my heels.

But when the countdown hit one and people cheered and toasted and kissed, the moment felt extra, extra exciting. And not just because of St.Matt’s midnight kiss.

It’s 2012.

Twenty-twelve!*

SEND ME A SIGN comes out in October 2012. So, this means it’s FINALLY my publication year.  How could that not add an extra sizzle to the ball-drop countdown?

Yesterday, when The Schmidtlets woke us up after not nearly enough sleep—5 a.m., really? Couldn’t they tell we only got to bed at 2?—I had another  moment of IT’S MY YEAR.

In which The Wild Imp says: Who needs sleep? And check out my cute Apocalypsie shirt? Auntie Em gave it to me.

I know that realistically, 1/1/2012 is only ONE day nearer to October than 12/31/2011, but it feels so much closer. And I’ve always valued feelings more than facts.**

So, Happy Twenty-Twelve!

And while you’re waiting for October, do what I plan to do — keep yourself distracted by reading fabulous books by all the other Apocalypsies.

In which The Pip Squeak says: Go read Apocalypsie books RIGHT NOW!

What a fabulous year it’s going to be!

In which The Schmidtlets demonstrate how 2012 has shoved 2011 out of the way and The Wild Imp goes splat.

*This is what we’ve agreed to call it, right? Not Two Thousand and Twelve?
**Much to the dismay of my sainted engineer.

Copyedits Colored Pencil Comparison – Updated!

Copyedits! They’re here!

I’ve been so excited about their pending arrival that I’ve had my colored pencils for weeks. I bought the erasable kind — thinking I was soooo brilliant.

Until I tried to write with them.

Must. Press. Down. So. Very. Hard. And they kinda skip. It was like trying to be precise while writing with a crayon.

I handed one to St.Matt and without my prompting he said: “They’re like writing with crayons.”


“New colored pencils!” I demanded. Actually, it was less of demand and more of an exclamation. Perhaps a proclamation: “Let us buy ALL the colored pencils!”

And then I whined to Emily Hainsworth** that all my planning was for naught. She seconded my demand/exclamation/proclamation and suggested a comparison — so all the credit for this brilliant idea goes to her.

I limited myself to five brands, because, let’s be serious — I’ve now got sixty-two colored pencils and I plan to use… ONE.

And, in a further show of self-restraint, I wouldn’t let myself buy the Staedtler brand (even though they make my very most favorite revision pens EVER) because I didn’t need a fancy pack for one pencil.**

To make this all scientific-ish, I sharpened each colored pencil with the same plastic sharpener. Wrote the brand, shaded, and signed my name with each.*** I used the same eraser to attempt to erase each — and swiped it the same number of swipes (7 swipes).

Here are the results:

To be fair, these were more “erasable” when you used the attached eraser. They’re also the hardest to write with & the least precise. Erasability is not worth it.

A little more precise than the erasable version… and just slightly less erasable.

The most erasable of the bunch. Decent precision. Tricky to sharpen — the tip kept crumbling

This was my second favorite.

Least erasable but most precise — go figure.

At the end of the day, excepting the Erasables, they’re all fairly similar. I ended up deciding to use the Prismacolor because the local Michael’s sells them as singles. St.Matt pointed out that if**** I happen to lose or break it, I can then go buy just another pencil, instead of a whole ‘nother set.

I feel a sudden urge to write a lab report. Or do another experiment. I wonder if we have vinegar and baking soda.

Or Coke and Mentos!

No worries, we DO have safety goggles.

But I also have copyedits! Mayhaps I will put my scientific urges on pause until all my editing and STETing is complete.

UPDATEThe brilliant & talented Nova Ren Suma***** just told me: Copy editors use Ticonderoga or Col-Erase colored pencils… Others are too soft.

Oh. *looks at the half pencil left after one night of sharpening & resharpening to maintain a tip* This makes A LOT of sense.  I’ve already ordered a pack — they should be here tomorrow and then I’ll add their photo to the collection.

Thanks, Nova!

UPDATE The SecondThey’re here —

The precision! The erasability! Dream come true. I got so excited I cut off the last letter of my last name. 

Which office supply should I test next?!******

* Actually, my brilliance should probably always be attributed to Miss Emily. I love her dearly. Maybe I’ll send her 61 colored pencils for Christmas.  

**Though if anyone has used Staedtler colored pencils and thinks they’re awesome, let me know and I’ll be all about getting them when it’s time for book two. 

***My signature is normally MUCH neater. I’m having a bad handwriting day — possibly caused by post-birthday-party-too-much-sugar jitters.


****He actually said WHEN I lose or break it, I edited his statement to give myself the benefit of the doubt

***** Seriously, if you haven’t read Imaginary Girls go add it to your Christmas list NOW. And then start behaving so Santa complies. 

****** I mean, Sorry, I’ve got to go do my copyedits.

SLOWED to a crawl? How inaccurate.

I’m trying to decide if I should dust the cobwebs off my blog or allow them to stay as festive Halloween decorations.
Probably dust them… I don’t do scary.
Last time I wrote that the twins were starting to crawl. At that point it was *wobble, wobble, move a few inches, beam at me.*
Now it’s ZOOOOOM, CLIMB, STAND, FALL, WAIL – in the same amount of time.
Plus, The Wild Imp is stubbornly convinced that he can stand unassisted.  He SO can’t. He also believes it’s a brilliant idea to hang from the top of the babygate and then fling himself backward.
I spend much of my day diving across the room trying to prevent traumatic head injuries. As a result I wear the bruises instead of him. Many, many bruises.
But, there’s bedtime and naptime and my writing stays alive in these snatches of time. SEND ME A SIGN’s revisions were approved and it’s been moved on to copyedits (HOORAY!) and I just finished revisions on my second book as well. (Lots of Revision Skittles were consumed in the past two months. LOTS).
And my work in progress is a thing of love. I adore it. Everything about it. Even its writing playlist, which I have to stop myself from listening to when I’m not working on it.
The song I play most often is this one:

And while I won’t tell you what it’s about just yet, a HUGE hint is that this band’s name would be a fabulous title for the book.

Author Interview — Scott Tracey

Interview with Scott Tracey

I’m pleased as pleased can be to have Scott Tracey, author of WITCH EYES, answering questions on my blog today.

Okay, so that’s a lie. Scott is REALLY answering questions on the Apocalypsie blog today. On this blog, I’m answering the questions for him.

I keep telling Scott he should hire me to do all his speaking and blogging engagements for him — If he did, this is a just a taste of the awesome he could expect.

For those of you looking for TRUTH — head over to The Apocalypsies and find out what’s really going on inside the head of Mr. Tracey. Warning: it’s a very, very strange place.

1)   Describe your writing routine?
Step 1) Put coffee in the coffeemaker
Step 2) Play a game of Bejeweled
Step 3) Check-in with Twitter – read a tweet about coffee – this reminds me to go turn the coffeemaker ON.
Step 4) Open word document
Step 5) Go bother Leah
Step 6) Fiddle with my writing playlist
Step 7) Pour coffee
Step 8) See if Twitter misses me yet.
Step 9) Create some words and sentences
Step 10) Rinse & repeat
2) Which character in Witch Eyes is the most similar to YOU?
Peyton the Princess. (page 70 for those of you with the book in front of you) I may look cute and adorable, but if you so much a blink at me the wrong way, I’ll push you in front of a bus.

Just kidding.

Maybe.

3) You describe Witch Eyes as a modern day Romeo and Juliet with witches — does this mean you’re going to kill off all the best characters?
God, you don’t pull any punches do you? What if I said yes and named names, Tiffany? Wouldn’t you feel horrible about ruining the ending for all of your blog readers? Hmmm?
No, actually, it doesn’t mean that at all. Book three, aka Princess Eyes ends with all of the characters being given a puppy and a cupcake. There are double rainbows, too.

4) If I suspect someone has witch eyes, what should I do?
Treat the situation the same way you would if there were a rogue bear or alligator on the loose. If you’re close to the person, poke them in the nose and run away in a z-shaped pattern.
Otherwise: make no sudden movements. Avoid wearing yellow. Back away slowly. Maybe climb a tree and hide.  If you happen to be carrying sunglasses, try tossing them to the Witch Eyed – if you’re lucky, they may take the bait and leave you alone.


5) Who would you cast as Braden & Trey in a Witch Eyes movie?

Trey:
Mark-Paul Gosselaar – aka Zack Morris from Saved By The Bell

 

Braden:
Joshua Jackson – aka Pacey from Dawson’s Creek
6) What are you going to do on release day?

Didn’t you hear? Witch Eyes was released a few weeks early by Amazon. All of a sudden people were emailing me to let me know their copies shipped – I guess it was too much awesome for Amazon to contain within their warehouses.
On my actual release date – September 8th – I plan to eat lots of pancakes. And perhaps, if it is not raining, go to the local park and do some interpretive Witch Eyes dances.
Or, you know, maybe I’m celebrating by working on the sequel…
7) What is your good luck charm?
My WWE Champion Belt. It’s shiny and it spins. When I’m having a rough day, I put it on.  Did I mention it spins?

Clearly these are the answers Scott Tracey wishes he’d given…

You can find out more about Scott Tracey at his blog, or on Twitter. WITCH EYES officially releases this Thursday, September 8th. If you haven’t already pre-ordered a copy, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Let’s Make A Deal

Bargaining with babies is hard. I thought the Schmidtlets and I had a deal: no learning to crawl until after I turned in my revision.
The Wild Imp had other ideas. And he is fast.
Baby A isn’t yet crawling, but he’s still mobile: rolling around like a top, scooting backward across the room, and calling: “Mama. MAMA. MAAAAAAMMAAAAA,” if I dare to leave his sight. Better yet, the little wombat would like me to constantly be within reach of his chubby little paws.
Chasing and clutching aren’t the best revision-companions. But that’s what PEI was for. That’s what the hours between bedtime and sunrise are for.
And I finished last Thursday.
Pressed *Send* on the e-mail to my editor – and then, before I could even gulp a panicked breath or sigh in relief:
THUNDER.
POWER LOSS
THE WAILS OF TWO WOKEN NAPPERS
Have I mentioned that one of the major threads in my book is superstition?
My first thought was one very like my main character, Mia, would have had: That was a very bad sign.
Later, after the twins had been soothed, the power restored, and my confidence petted by some Twitter support, I revised my thinking: That was a very good sign – if the power had gone out even a minute sooner, I would’ve been prevented from sending.
And we all know how little I like to wait.
Apparently the Schmidtlets have inherited that trait from me: The Imp is extremely IMPatient, and Baby A is currently calling my name.  
Maybe we’ll strike a new bargain: Ten more minutes of naptime in exchange for peaches at every meal.
*goes to buy peaches in bulk*

Procrasti-baking

These are too fun to be the product of Stress-Baking.  
Rice Krispie Cake Batter Treats – recipe found HERE
Maybe they’re Procrastination Treats? We leave for two weeks of vacation tomorrow –- a working vacation for me, since my revision is due at the end of the month – and I’m not packed. I haven’t packed for the boys yet either.
Every time I look around our house, I can’t help but feel like they twins need All The Things. And then I look at our car and panic.
Did I mention we’ll be spending about 20 hours in that car over the next few days?
*panics*
And my head is totally in the Revision Cave and doesn’t want to stop and think about whether or not we’ve packed the boys’ sound machine or laundry detergent.
It’s such a good thing I’m married to a saint. He not only remembers these things, but also that I have library books due before we get back, the boys’ vitamin prescriptions needs to be refilled, and the memory card on the camera needs to be emptied.
AND, he went and photocopied my line edits last night. Because, let’s face it, it’s me – things just happen, and a backup copy never hurt.
So, nope, I’m changing my mind again. They’re not Stress-Baking, or Procrastination Treats, they’re Gratitude Goodies. I am so grateful his head’s on straight when mine isn’t.
***Also, I’m noticing a decidedly sugar-y theme to my posts lately – I swear I eat vegetables, too. Pinky promise***
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